Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

I adore Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobb's books. I dole them out slowly because I wholeheartedly enjoy reading every aspect of her stories. She has a heroine who is both intelligent and engaging while not being drippy or overly pretentious in her knowledge. Plus, the time period of the series is one of my absolutely favorite historical periods. Writing a post about this book will likely just end up being a drippy fan letter to Winspear so bear with me.

Winspear does extremely accurate research into 1920s and 30s England. Her stories follow the character Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator who worked as a nurse during World War I. Each of the stories details a mystery that connects back to the events of the War. Winspear unearths a gritty, realistic, yet not gory explanation of The Great War. In her job as a PI, Dobbs must travel back through the experiences of veterans who have survived insurmountable experiences. This story looks at an artist who served both as a soldier and as a propaganda artist for the British government. Exploring the way that someone who saw the horrors of war and had to then convince others to enlist underscores a side of war that I have rarely found researched.

Whoever helps Winspear with her research does a fantastic job. The accuracy of the era is readily apparent. In this story Winspear has begun to underline the impact of the Depression on the British people. Not only does she faithfully depict the War, she also begins to explore the social class ramifications of the Depression on the people in London. Her work raises questions about British society's duties to its fellow man.

While I might classify the Maisie Dobbs books as cozies, they are infinitely more. To be honest, I have used examples from this fictional series in my classroom teaching because Winspear brings a realism and an emotionality to war that is rarely found in academic writing. I strongly recommend this series to anyone who likes mysteries, anyone who enjoys historical novels, and anyone who wants to read a more than competent writer.

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